Editor’s note: Today we welcome Alicia Hart to the New Evangelizers blogging team!
When I was born, my parents lived in an old home in a wonderful, Catholic neighborhood in a suburb of Philadelphia. Life in this neighborhood was just like the television shows.
I have memories of catching lightning bugs with other kids in the neighborhood, racing bicycles together, and games of “kick the can.” Everyone on our block knew one another and Halloween was the best because you got “oohs” and “ahhs” over your costume at every house you went to.
The only thing that I didn’t like about living in this three-story home filled with love and ghost stories was the fact that I was the only kid on the block who did not go to Catholic school. I remember begging my parents to let me go to Catholic school.
My dad, a former student of Catholic schools, was adamant that I was not going to be enrolled in one. Aside from the fact that Catholic schools cost money, I was not Catholic. My parents made a decision when I was born that they would let me decide on my religion when I got older.
When I was eight years old, we moved to another home in a different neighborhood. I missed my Catholic friends so much.
The new neighborhood had few kids and none of them went to Catholic school, but that didn’t stop me from wanting to be Catholic. One day, I was in the school library and decided to check the shelves for books about religions, specifically Catholicism. After searching the card catalog, the video shelf, and the information packets in the library, I came up with nothing. I put my search for religion on a back-burner for a while after that.
A few days before my twelfth birthday, my family moved (again) to a small town in Georgia. This town has over 200 Protestant churches and about that many Catholic families. You would think that I would finally give up on my search for Catholicism but I didn’t.
I would fix my eyes on that little Catholic Church on the hill every time we passed in hopes that I would catch a glimpse of Jesus Christ inside. One day I even saw the priest standing outside shaking the hands of parishioners.
I knew this was where I belonged but just wasn’t sure how to get there.
God has a way of calling us to where he wants us. One Christmas when my son was very young, I was a full-time student in the local technical college, hoping to earn my Associate’s Degree and become a Head Start teacher (I did it, by the way!). I had very little money for gifts, or even a Christmas tree. I had signed up for a free Christmas basket through a local charity. I hadn’t heard back from them and there were a few days left until Christmas. I called and was told that I had been sponsored by the Catholic Church and that I can go there to get my items.
Usually the Christmas baskets contained sugar, flour, canned goods, and one or two small gifts for each child. The one I received from the Church contained a chicken, eggs, all the fixings for a Christmas dinner, an outfit and shoes for my son, toys, and a card. I opened the card and inside was a gift card to Wal-Mart and a note to spend it on myself. I cried.
At this point, I knew I wanted to attend this church whose people showed such love for others but I was so shy that I never followed through. The love I felt never left and the longing to be with my God never faded.
A few years later, I was working at Head Start as a primary teacher and was in the need of an assistant teacher. The woman who was hired was smart, fun, caring, and Catholic. I talked with her a little about faith matters and she even invited me to her son’s First Communion.
I didn’t take her up on the invitation but I knew I wanted to go to this Church that had eluded me for so long. A couple of summers later, I asked her if I could ride with her to church. She took me that Sunday and I went back every Sunday until I was baptized.
I had finally found the Savior who I was searching for all those years. What better place than a Church where I not only learn about and praise Jesus Christ, but a place where I can receive him, body, blood, soul, and divinity into my body?
Sometimes we just don’t do what the Holy Spirit is calling us to do. At first I was too young to take the step on my own. Later it was because I feared the unknown. Finally God threw me the life preserver of a friend. Now I am raising three little boys and teaching them about this Catholic faith that I had waited so long to become a part of. I also must keep my eyes and heart open so that one day God can use me as the life preserver for someone else that He is calling out to.
Copyright © 2012, Alicia Hart